Throughout your career you will come across people who are easy to work and those less so. Those who will enable your progress, and those who will hinder it. People who will inspire you, and those who will drag you down.
It is often when you experience unexpected career changes or challenges at work that you most readily see how this plays out; and you will often be surprised as to who will help you and who won’t.
When I made my move from corporate to setting up my own business, it was the people I least expected to provide support who did; often going to amazing lengths to help me land well. Yet, other people, who I thought I had very deep connections with, provided little or no support at all.
Throughout your career it’s likely that you will come across three key styles – the takers, fakers and makers.
You see these roles play out as characters in TV shows all the time too. Let’s use the HBO cult TV show, Game of Thrones, as an example:
- Taker – They say and do anything to get what they want – Cersei Lannister is the widow of King Robert Baratheon and Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Everything she does is about ‘gain’ for her or her family. She sees the world as with her or against her, saying: “Everyone who isn’t us is an enemy“. If you get in her way, she will take you down. Of course, this doesn’t pay off in the long run.
- Faker – Their words and actions don’t match – Lord Petyr Baelish, commonly known as Littlefinger. He’s a master manipulator, who uses a raft of means to gather intelligence on his rivals, amass wealth and garner power. He says all the right things, so whilst he may act as though he is helping you, his intent is disingenuous. It’s all about his needs, saying: “Always keep your foes confused. If they don’t know who you are or what you want, they can’t know what you plan to do next.” Likewise, this approach doesn’t pay off as eventually you get caught out and your contradictions catch up with you; as happened to this character a few seasons ago.
- Maker – They take action and step up for the good of all – Jon Snow, the hero of the story and son of Lady Stark and the Prince of Dragonstone. He has principles, is aware of the needs of others, whilst being able to steer his own course. He is balanced in giving and taking, and is transparent in words and action, saying: “If I don’t take my own word seriously what sort of “Lord of Winterfell” would I be?”
In your network, the takers won’t be as extreme as Cersei Lannister. However, they won’t help your career or be easy to work with. Sure in the short-term, there may be some gain if you give them something they need. But that’s it. There’s no loyalty, or genuine interest, and they will only ever help you if there is an immediate and clear benefit for them. They are usually quite easy to spot. These people may be overly negative, unhelpful, and can drain you of energy and throw you off course, fast.
Fakers can be hard to spot. They’re the ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’. When you first meet them, you may be immediately attracted to their interest in you and your career. Over time, they won’t live up to their promises, and as soon as someone comes along that they feel will help them more – you’ll be dropped.
Both the fakers and takers can have short-term wins, but this type of behaviour isn’t sustainable. The world is too small.
It’s the makers who are genuinely interested in understanding you and your needs and committed to building collaborative relationships. They understand that sustainable relationships require ‘give’ and ‘take’. They seek mutually beneficial outcomes.
Makers have genuine influence, and when the relationship is established are willing to advocate for you, support you and challenge your thinking. This is important – you need to seek out people with different opinions to ensure your network has character and depth.
If you want to make positive progress you need to leverage support from the makers, while ditching or restricting the time spent with the takers and fakers.
Of course, in doing all of this you need to challenge yourself and ask the question – which type are you? Are you a taker, faker or maker?
As you do this remember the words of teacher and author, Eckhart Tolle:
“Sometimes letting go is an act of far greater power than defending or holding on.”
Getting you ready for tomorrow, today®
Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’ and ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate Your Career’.
For more information: www.michellegibbings.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.